By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
One of the most horrendous ideas which has ever troubled the world is a doctrine known as karma.
I often hear people claim that they believe in karma, even many Christians.
However, I am quite convinced that most do not actually understand what this word means, and are equally unaware of the miseries that it has brought upon the world. Without a doubt, it is one of the most efficient tools that Hell has brought to bear on the souls of men.
Defining Our Terms
Many equate the doctrine of karma with the idea of sowing and reaping. They have been told that karma is simply “you reap what you sow,” or “what goes around comes around.” It is the ultimate recitation of “cause and effect.”
These ideas are close to the concept of karma, but most do not realize how far-reaching the implications of the doctrine actually are. Let me explain.
According to karma, anything which you suffer is a result of something which you did in a past life.
So, if you are an abused wife, guess what that means?
You were an abusive husband in a past life.
Have you been orphaned?
According to karma, that is the result of something which you did in a past life which you are suffering for now.
Have you been sexually abused? Then in a past life, you did something to bring this abuse upon you in this present life.
In his book From Buddha To Jesus, Steve Cioccolanti describes his intimate knowledge of Buddhism (including the doctrine of karma) and how he became a follower of Jesus Christ.
In describing karma, he tells a story of a woman that he was friends with who had a terrible encounter with an eel and who learned about karma through it:
“This story is not intended for children. It’s an adult story, so I will try to word it delicately so the adults will understand. In this account I will show you how the doctrine of karma works in real life. I travel regularly to Thailand to do some public speaking and on one of my trips I sat down with a Buddhist friend. This is what she told me. Since the age of 12, I could not say the word “eel”  . I could not even stand to hear the word eel. I would literally go into shock. My father once tried to fry some eel and that was the last time. My entire family could not eat eel  any more. My husband of eight years had the job of holding the remote control in his hands while watching TV, just in case the word eel was ever spoken. When we went to the market together, he had to hold my arm just in case we saw an eel in the marketplace. What happened to me? When I was 12 years old, I ran to Watergate Market  and I witnessed an eel go up a merchant woman’s skirt. The woman screamed in pain and tried to pull the eel out but the eel bit her. Both the woman and the eel died with blood everywhere. This was in the newspaper 30 years ago. This incident sunk into my memory and every time I heard or saw another eel, I would literally fall over and shake like an epileptic. According to Buddhism, this is a karma that had followed me from my past life of sins. Thai Buddhists call this wain gum or the revenge of karma . Other Buddhists explained to me that in a past life, I must have done something wrong to an eel, so now in this life the eel must do something to me. Our belief is that karma always follows us. It will follow us forever until somehow it is paid for…This is one of the many stories of Buddhists I could tell you. This is the doctrine of karma in real life, not in textbooks. If you have a fear of eels, it is assumed you once hurt an eel. If you were born or became a paralytic, it is assumed you had been bad in a previous life. Karma is always retributive….The doctrine of karma does not usually produce compassion, but condemnation. When sincere Buddhists try to purify themselves of their own karma, and keep all 227 laws of Buddha (for men), they realize they cannot do it. This produces even more condemnation.” (Steve Cioccolanti, From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism & Christianity, 12-18 (Kindle Edition); Sweet Life International Pty.Ltd.)
One recognized authority on karma has written:
“My kamma [past and present actions] is my only property, kamma is my only heritage, kamma is the only cause of my being, kamma is my only kin, my only protection. Whatever actions I do, good or bad, I shall become their heir.” (Angutarra Nikaya, 7.5, quoted in Guide to the Tipitaka (Bangkok: White Lotus Company, Ltd., 1993), 97.)
One former Hindu by the name of Ravi Zacharias provides powerful insights and examples of karma along these lines:
“The incredible aspect of this teaching is that the more painful one’s existence, the more certain that the previous life is successfully paying its dues. So that when one picks up the body of a little child, deformed from birth, karma is in operation. One might not wish to admit this, but that is the existential reality of this teaching. Some years ago, I was told of a group of missionaries and their families who had been killed in a bus accident near a village in a Buddhist country. Within minutes, the bus was ransacked and the bodies pillaged for loot. The reason— those who died were only receiving their karma, and there is nothing wrong in taking what is left from one who is paying his or her dues.” (Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message (Nashville, TN: Word Publishing), 122- 123.)
When a person or a society accepts this monstrous doctrine, people learn to overlook the suffering of their family, friends, and even strangers.
When I was doing research for my book on reincarnation, I was shocked to find how the doctrine of karma even has had a profound impact on the often-neglected subject of human sacrifice that is prevalent throughout the world:
“Another pagan doctrine remained to be dealt with. Tribes that scarified only outsiders did not concern themselves much with the state after death of those they dispatched. Those that killed their own members, however, had designed elaborate justifications for the victim’s death. The most powerful of these justifications, one that remains today as part of Hindu, and now New Age, doctrine, is the combined dogma of karma and reincarnation. Reincarnation literally means “fleshed again.” It is the doctrine that after death we simply are born again as another person or creature. This means you never really die; you just pass on to another life. Karma is the bad or good you store up for yourself in previous lives. Everything that happens to you in this life is considered to be a direct effect from something good or bad you did in a previous life. Everything you do in this life will also lead to good or bad karma in future lives. Therefore, any suffering you receive is your own fault, and not to be pitied. And since suffering patiently leads to good karma in a future life, relieving pain is positively an evil act. Mix these doctrines with human sacrifice, and you end up with victims who sincerely believe they will be benefited by being scarified, and executioners who feel positively noble about murdering the victim. Also, since being sacrificed benefits the victim, there is no theoretical limit on the number of executions. All other forms of sacrifice had to justify some benefit to a third party or society. Only karma/reincarnation makes being sacrificed the benefit. This explains the incredible amount of sacrifice that went on in both Hindu and Aztec civilizations. Both cultures strongly stressed that people who submitted to sacrifice in this life would receive a superior station in the next.” (Paul de Parrie & Mary Pride, Unholy Scarifies of the New Age (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books), 16- 17.)
We cannot begin to fathom the horrible evils in our world which are tied directly to the monstrous doctrine of karma.
The Philosophical Problems Of Karma
I would suggest that the doctrine of karma is false, and that there are several facts which demonstrate this.
First, many who espouse belief in karma would like to distance themselves from the existence of God through doing so.
However, the existence of God must be presupposed for any belief in karma.
If karma is the cosmic “you reap what you sow” law, then Who made the law?
If our status in this life is directly proportionate to the wrongs we committed against others in a past life, then who decides what is right and wrong?
The person who would deny God’s existence through karma faces the same problem as every other atheist: objective moral law presupposes the existence of the moral Lawgiver.
In other words, if atheism is true then there is no objective morality; but objective morality exists; therefore atheism is not true.
Second, if the purpose of karma is for us to pay off the debts of our past lives, then why don’t people remember these supposed past lives?
How can we pay for that which we do not remember?
Why wouldn’t we all remember our past lives if we are here to pay off the debt from them?
Third, if I am to use this life to pay off karma from my past life, then what about the debt that I incur in this life?
If I am to escape my karmic cycle, then I must pay off all of my karmic debt: but karma ensures that this can never occur.
Indeed, the whole idea of karma leads to an infinite regress, which would lead to an infinite number of contradictions, and therefore shows that karma is false.
Let me explain.
An infinite regress is the idea that there has been an endless chain of causes and effects, an unlimited number of contingent events.
To illustrate this (and the impossibility of such), consider this analogy.
If you were trying to move from point A to point B, and if there were an unlimited number of steps in between them, would you ever arrive?
Of course not!
Every time you took one step, you would still have an infinite number left to go.
However, if you ever did arrive from A to B, then you would know that the number of steps in between was not infinite.
You could then say, “I know that there has not been an infinite regress.” (Simply rename “A” as “Yesterday,” and “B” as “Today,” and you can see how philosophers from long before the time of Christ showed that the universe had a beginning: if there had been an unlimited number of moments in the past, then we would never have been able to arrive from yesterday to today; but we have arrived at today; therefore we know that the number of moments in the past have not been infinite).
To show some examples of how we know an infinite regress would lead to an infinite number of contradictions, consider the following:
“Actual infinites are sets of numbers to which no increment can be added since, by nature of their infiniteness, the set includes all numbers—there is nothing to add. If this is hard to imagine, there is good reason: actual infinites do not exist and cannot exist in the physical world. If actual infinites did exist in the physical world, we would see absurdities and effects we could not live with, literally. For instance, let’s say you had a CD collection that was infinitely large, and each CD had an infinite number of songs on it. If you listened to one CD, you hear as much music as if you had listened to all of the CDs—an infinite amount—and yet those infinites are of different sizes—a nonsensical notion. Let’s also say that there were only two artists in your CD collection, Bach and the Beatles, and that every other CD was by the Beatles. This would mean that you had as many Beatles CDs as you would Beatles and Bach CDs combined; they would both be an infinite number. But at the same time they would be different sized infinites. And would the number of Beatles CDs be odd or even? It must be one or the other, but to speak of infinity in such a way is irrational. Or imagine a racecar driver and his son. The racecar driver is making circuit after circuit on a track a mile long. Meanwhile in the infield, his three-year-old son is on his tricycle going in circles. The son is completing a dozen or so circuits to his dad’s one. But if they had each been going for an infinite amount of time, they would have completed an equal number of circuits! This demonstration of the non-existence of actual infinites can be applied in two real-world areas, time and causality. The best way to show that time is not infinite, that it had a beginning, is to observe that there is a “now.” If now exists, then time cannot be infinite. To show this, picture the moment “now” as a destination, like a train station. Then picture time as train tracks that are actually infinitely long. If you were a passenger waiting on the train to arrive, how long would you have to wait? The answer is: forever. You can never reach the end of infinity; thus, infinitely long train tracks cannot ever be crossed. There is no end to arrive at, no station. If infinitely long train tracks could be crossed, they would be the equivalent of a one-ended stick, a nonsensical notion. In fact, this is the opposite limitation of potential infinites. Just as potential infinites are finite numbers that can never turn infinite, actual infinites could never reach the end of their infiniteness and turn finite. But there is an end, a “now”; the train did arrive at the station. This means the tracks of time cannot be infinitely long. There cannot be an infinite number of preceding moments prior to the present moment. The past is not an actual infinite. Thus, time had to have a beginning.” (Doug Powell, Holman QuickSource Guide To Christian Apologetics: A Clear And Complete Overview, 29-32 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Holman Reference)
So, let’s put this together.
If karma is true, then this would lead to the existence of an infinite regress, but an infinite regress is impossible; therefore karma is not true.
These illustrate some (although not all) of the philosophical problems of karma.
The Pagan Notion Of Karma Versus The Bible Teaching
In contrast to the false doctrine of karma, the Bible teaches a completely different view of suffering.
Although suffering is often the result of sin (Genesis 2:15-17; Romans 8:18-25), it is not always the result of personal sin (Luke 13:1-5).
The entire Book of Job illustrates this fact powerfully. Job’s three friends maintained that Job was suffering because he had committed some horrible personal sin in his life; yet (as we are made aware of in the first chapter of Job), his suffering was not because of personal sin.
Think about Jesus’ teaching regarding this:
John 9:1-3-1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.
Jesus’ Apostles had the idea which many today hold to: if you are suffering, it is because of personal sin against God.
Notice, however, that Jesus completely refutes this notion.
He points out that this man’s suffering was not because of his own personal sin, or even because of his parents’ sins, but was being allowed in order that God could show His compassion and power through him.
Do we sometimes suffer in this life because of our personal transgressions? Of course (Proverbs 13:15; Galatians 6:7-8). However, this is a far cry from the terrible notion of karma.
Further (and this is perhaps the most beautiful contrast between karma’s endless cycle of suffering and retribution and the Good News of Jesus Christ), the Cross defeats and destroys any notion of karma. Jesus-and Jesus alone-can accomplish this.
Notice two ways He does so.
First, because of His Incarnation (i.e., being made human), Jesus completely understands and relates to any temptations and sufferings that we endure.
He is not removed from our pains, or from our temptations: He has completely embraced them and fully sympathizes with us.
Hebrews 4:15-For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Years ago, one Christian apologist described Christ’s relation to us with these words:
““Jesus is there, sitting beside us in the lowest places of our lives,” he said. “Are we broken? He was broken, like bread, for us. Are we despised? He was despised and rejected of men. Do we cry out that we can’t take any more? He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Do people betray us? He was sold out himself. Are our tenderest relationships broken? He too loved and was rejected. Do people turn from us? They hid their faces from him as from a leper. “Does he descend into all of our hells? Yes, he does. From the depths of a Nazi death camp, Corrie ten Boom wrote: ‘No matter how deep our darkness, he is deeper still.’ He not only rose from the dead, he changed the meaning of death and therefore of all the little deaths—the sufferings that anticipate death and make up parts of it. “He is gassed in Auschwitz. He is sneered at in Soweto. He is mocked in Northern Ireland. He is enslaved in the Sudan. He’s the one we love to hate, yet to us he has chosen to return love. Every tear we shed becomes his tear. He may not wipe them away yet, but he will.” (Peter Kreeft, in Lee Strobel, The Case For Faith: A Journalist Investigates The Toughest Objections To Christianity, 51-52 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
My friends, Jesus (through His Incarnation) fully understands what you are tempted with, and whatever pain you may experience.
Secondly, on His Cross, Jesus defeated the spiritual consequences of sin (through His Atonement-His payment of man’s sin).
In His death at Calvary, Jesus was able to meet the righteous demands of a perfectly holy God while at the same time making Atonement for all who will come to God through Him:
Romans 3:24-26-24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21-14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 16 Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Jesus’ death has the power to save us and to set us free my friends. His life, miracles, teachings, death, burial and His Resurrection on the third day (as witnessed by over 500 witnesses-1 Corinthians 15:1-8) are just part of the incredible evidences that He and His claims are true.
Why not trade the pagan notion of karma (with its’ philosophic and Scriptural impossibilities) for the saving grace of Jesus Christ?
Please, repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).
The grace of The Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.